The Shocking Throwaway Economy: A Deluge of Plastics Brought to You by Exxon, Shell, et al

The fossil fuel industry isn’t going away and is investing billions in facilities that can generate a projected 40% increase in plastic production. This is an appalling report that illustrates how capitalist greed focuses on short-term profit at the expense of our planet. Disgusting. On a positive note, Sat. 11am on KSFR, Retake interviews Peter D!

Four Events this Week Worth Noting

The Southside Mayoral Forum:  Candidates Respond to Youth, Families and Workers. Thursday, Feb. 22, 6-8pm, at Cesar Chavez Elementary School, 6521 Jaguar Dr.  Here is a Mayoral Panel that will be worth attending, as the event is being organized by agencies working in the Southside working with youth, families and workers to identify the issues and ask the questions. Retake has long asserted that if you want to understand how to achieve social, economic, racial and environmental justice, just ask those who are most oppressed by injustice. They know what is wrong and often how to fix it. I highly recommend this panel. Unfortunately, I’ll arrive late as we have a Roundhouse Advocacy Team meeting from 4:30-6:30.

Chainbreaker:  Investment and Displacement Panel. Tonight. Reminder that tonight from 5:30-7pm at the Cocteau in Santa Fe, 418 Montezuma, Chainbreaker Collective is a panel discussion on investment and displacement. No charge for admission. Click here to get to yesterday’s blog post where the event is described in more detail.

For the rest of the month Sweetwater Harvest Kitchen at 1512 Pacheco St. in Santa Fe, is donating 2% of all cash sales to support Somos un Pueblo UnidoPlease support their work and don’t forget to bring cash. Click here to view their menu, hours, etc. Sweetwater has also supported other community organizations in the past and their food is terrific, so this is a twofer. You get a great meal and some of the proceeds go to Somos.

This Saturday Feb 24 at 11am on KSFR 101.1 FM, Retake Our Democracy with Gubernatorial Candidate Peter DeBenidittus will be with me to talk about his candidacy. Peter has been doing well in Ward elections held throughout the state, with 1/3 of Las Cruces delegates to the Pre-Primary Convention reportedly pledged to Peter. To automatically appear on the June primary ballot, a candidate must receive 20% of Pre-Primary Convention delegate votes at the Statewide Democratic Party Convention in ABQ on March 10th.   Click here for more on Peter D.

Retake will offer other candidates an opportunity to be on the show after they submit their completed Governor’s Poll. The poll is based upon Speak Up, NM!, the poll comprised of 29 bills introduced and killed in the 2017 Roundhouse session.  Speak Up, NM! is currently online for all New Mexicans to take. Thus far, Peter D, and Joseph Apodaca have returned their surveys, Sen. Cervantes and Rep. Lujan Grisham have promised to do so but, as yet, have not. I have extended the deadline to Feb 24 to accommodate Sen. Cervantes who had been immersed in Roundhouse responsibilities until last Thursday which is also affording Lujan Grisham more time to complete the survey.  Click here to take Speak Up, NM!, the Legislative Priorities poll that is the source of the Governor’s poll. Once done you can compare your priorities with those of the Democratic candidates for Governor.  We will post their responses within a few days of the surveys being completed.

Future KSFR Retake Our Democracy Shows.  On March 3, I will be interviewing current Santa Fe District Court Judge Gregory Shaffer who is also a candidate to remain on the bench and facing three Democratic challengers. We will talk about the role of the District Court and an interesting framework used to vet Judge candidates. Finally on March 11, I will interview Dede Feldman, former State Senator and author of two tremendous books, Another Way Forward: Grassroots Solutions to New Mexico Problems and Inside the New Mexico Senate: Boots Suits and Citizens. I scheduled Dede out three weeks, so I could have completed her books….which from the titles are obviously relevant to our New Mexico advocacy. You can pick up the books at Collected Works on Galisteo and Water.

This is the Next Big Environmental Challenge: A Plastic Binge

Apparently,  the fossil fuel industry hasn’t despoiled our planet enough already, as over the last ten years, companies like Exxon and Shell have invested $186B dollars in 318 new projects with almost half of them already under construction or completed. The rest are at the planning stage. These “cracking” facilities are designed to produce the raw material required for everyday plastics from packaging to bottles, trays and cartons.

From an excellent article in the Guardian: “The new facilities – being built by corporations like Exxon Mobile Chemical and Shell Chemical – will help fuel a 40% rise in plastic production in the next decade, according to experts, exacerbating the plastic pollution crisis that scientists warn already risks ‘near permanent pollution of the earth.'”‘

“We could be locking in decades of expanded plastics production at precisely the time the world is realizing we should use far less of it,” said Carroll Muffett, president of the US Center for International Environmental Law, which conducts analysis of the plastic industry. “Around 99% of the feedstock for plastics is fossil fuels, so we are looking at the same companies, like Exxon and Shell, that have helped create the climate crisis. There is a deep and pervasive relationship between oil and gas companies and plastics.”

Underlying this increase in plastic production are technological ‘advances’ in shale gas production. From the Guardian: “Kevin Swift, chief economist at the ACC, told the Guardian. “Shale gas.” “There has been a revolution in the US with the shale gas technologies, with the fracking, the horizontal drilling. The cost of our raw material base has gone down by roughly two thirds.” And so even if we are destroying the planet, if it is now easier and cheaper to do so and there is profit in it, let’s do it!

Matthew Thoelke, executive director at IHS Markit analysts in Germany and an expert in the global chemical industry, said the expansion in the US would be a critical part of a 40% increase in global plastics production over the next decade. So once again the US leads the way in the destruction of the planet. Imagine instead if the US were leading the world in the development of hemp production which, in addition to fabrics, can be used to produce a wide array of plastic products. Instead, US capitalism goes for the easy and destructive short-term gain, maximizing the use of fracking to produce the gas shale needed to further destroy the planet.  The chart at left shows plastic production in 1950 (none), to 1976 (very little) and then 2007 and 2015. Examine the photos throughout this piece and imagine a 40% increase over 2015.  Just where exactly are we going to dispose these products once used?  Plastics never decompose, so where we throw them away, they stay. And as Annie Leonard famously stated: ‘there is no away.’ Just another here.

But the American Chemistry Council explains that the plastics boom brings huge economic benefits to the US creating hundreds of thousands of jobs and allowing the manufacture of a wide range of important products from medical supplies to auto parts, piping to technology.

While some of these products are indeed of great value, what plastics producers fail to state is that if the US had invested billions in alternative means of producing these important products, we could have jobs, medical supplies and a planet. These are choices we make. When and how do we take the reins and direct our own future?  

While no local effort will, on its own, cause Shell, Exxon and others to divest of this insanity, we can reduce the demand for these products. Recently, Santa Fe photographer, Melanie West, ran into us at the Co-op. She shamed us (in a kind way) for using plastic bags for the produce we were buying and pointed us to hemp bags that are reusable and were not produced via fracking. A small step, but a step.

I am wondering if there is someone out there just outraged enough to do some legwork identifying strategies for a community like Santa Fe to vastly reduce use of plastics and to pressure businesses to find alternatives to cucumber wrapped in plastic, water bottled in plastic, plastic containers for 1/4 of the foods we buy. If you are interested in taking on this task, please write to me at paul@RetakeOurDemocracy.org.

Click here to read the excellent report from The Guardian. And thanks to Bobbe Besold for the heads-up and sending me this article..

In solidarity,

Paul & Roxanne

One thought on “The Shocking Throwaway Economy: A Deluge of Plastics Brought to You by Exxon, Shell, et al

  1. Pingback: Looking Back Looking Forward: Link to Peter D Podcast, Invite to Sunday Town Hall | Retake Our Democracy

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